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How Do Businesses Survive Cut-Throat Competition?

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Sometimes there are more questions than answers. I once went to a meeting with an important partner to negotiate a deal; we discussed the benefits for both parties and agreed on the value proposition. Still, when it came to pricing, objectivity and rationality were placed on hold, because my product was “insurance”. It was to be priced like a commodity with “no cost of sale”.

In his words, “if you do not agree, I will call another insurance company and tell them to beat your price, then call another insurance company to beat the last price…the industry is racing downwards, and we would help them”. The story ended well because we had built a reputable record of service delivery; there’s always a place for relationship management in business. The experience left me with a lot to ponder on. The critical question being, how do businesses survive cut-throat competition? 

I do not have scientific research to back up my recommendations, but they come from a place of practical experience.

Businesses are similar to biological forms. In the words of Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent but the one most responsive to change”.

At this point, I would like to define cut-throat competition as a type of competition that defies regular market practices. Here pricing is not subject to the laws of demand and supply, cost of production etc., instead it is focused on driving revenue as a means of survival for a large number of players in the industry. 

Until the situation normalizes, it is crucial to treat your business like a portfolio, where you have clear investment objectives with different scenarios and expected returns. This implies that in some scenarios you break even and in others you make calculated losses (this should be very minimal with salient benefits such as gaining or retaining market share), or you make a good profit. If done well, the result should be an upward trajectory for your business.

In treating your business like a portfolio, you need to do the following:

  • Know your Customer and Know your Market: If your service or product is seen as a non-essential by your target market, the bargaining power of the purchaser is amplified, pitching organizations against each other as they fight for a share of the customer’s wallet. In a situation like this, you have to tailor your solutions to what the customer needs. This would involve market research, customer engagement, and hypothesis testing, as well as other data capturing techniques.
  • Know your Cost Price: For people in manufacturing, logistics, trading etc., this could be very easy, but it gets difficult as we move towards the service industry. Some service companies need adequate data and actuarial inputs to determine their cost price. Once this is acquired, you can then make informed decisions about price structure and determine the contribution margin.
  • Create your Niche. Innovate: There is a saying that goes thus, “It is foolish to keep doing the same thing but expect a different result”. You need to build unique capabilities to set your business aside from the pack. No matter how crowded a place is, there are still people that would stand out. I say this often, “There is no saturation in differentiation”. Differentiation gives you an advantage not just in pricing but in customer acquisition, sustainability etc.
  • Drive Efficiency and Build Scale: There are several ways to achieve this. Some include building optimal processes, reviewing your distribution approach, re-designing your operating model, man-power enhancement and optimization, cost management, utilizing technology as an enabler, building partnerships, leveraging on platforms etc.

Also Read: How Tech Is Enhancing Recruitment: An Interview With Sandy Simagwali, Co-Founder Of Graft Africa

  • Product Optimization: This may involve creating varied versions of the same product. It may be a “no-frills” version of your solution or bundling your solution with a variety of complementary solutions. Product optimization should be a product of customer and market interaction.
  • Stakeholder Engagement: The players in the industry can come together to decide fair pricing. This typically works better in a regulated industry. The regulator is empowered to set a minimum price for the industry, which would be more favourable to new entrants and fringe players. The decisions of these regulators often lead to mergers, acquisitions, etc. within the industry.
  • Compete: This involves the use of all capital, emotional, technical, relational, intuitive, network, and physical leverage within ethical and legal confines you may have at your disposal to put you ahead.

By: Oladele Akinsanya

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Investment

CreditFins, Egypt’s first Credit Card management platform, closes a pre-seed funding round

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CreditFins Team 

CreditFins, a Credit Card management and financial wellness startup and the first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa(MENA), closed a pre-seed round of investment led by Flat6Labs, AUC Angels, and TA Telecom Holding. Other Angel Investors with backgrounds in technology and investment participated in the funding, which CreditFins is deploying towards developing the product and acquiring users.

“Credit Fins has developed a cutting-edge financial technology solution to alleviate bank customers’ financial struggles, kicking off in Egypt and expanding to new markets. Add to that their solid founding team who continue to grow their business, is a sure recipe for success. Flat6labs is proud to be part of their success journey.” said Albert Malaty, Managing Director of Flat6Labs Cairo Seed Program.

CreditFins helps users repay their Credit Card debt while saving money. It is a cheaper, more convenient solution for debt repayment through fixed, lower monthly installments as part of a plan that can be easily tracked. CreditFins’ customers save 20-50% of the interest they would have paid with their bank.

“CreditFins stood out amongst their cohort because of a clear strength in the team. The diversity in their experience, and their resourceful approach to addressing the problem they’ve identified, was apparent to investors. We look forward to witnessing the growth and pivots they will go through in their mission to empower their user base through enhanced financial tools.” said Mariam Kamel, Manager of AUC Angels.

As total outstanding credit card debt in Egypt stood at more than $2 billion as of 2019, CreditFins is on a mission to grant its customers financial freedom. CreditFins is aware that falling into the vicious debt cycle is due to inaccessibility of information and lack of awareness, a gap the startup seeks to fill.

The startup is actively working to launch “CreditFins Alpha” card, introducing more features to its solution, as it strives to make its credit card management platform more compelling and to widen its customer base.

“Credit card debt is a moving target that’s hard to settle. At CreditFins, we work with our customers to settle the debt they have in a faster and cheaper way, along with providing them with financial information and empowering them with the right tools to be financially liberated” said Sherif Radi, co-founder and CEO of CreditFins.

The company is founded by a team with extensive experience in innovation and product building. Co-Founder and CEO Sherif Radi has over 17 years of experience in innovation strategy. As former CEO of TA Telecom, his work focused on innovation, customer-centric solutions, and building new products. Co-founder and CPO, Gamal Sadek, is a tech-entrepreneur with over 11 years of experience in entrepreneurship, during which he co-directed the Founder Institute chapter in Egypt and co-founded Bey2ollak, Egypt’s number one mobile app for crowdsourcing traffic information used by over 1.3 million commuters in Egypt.

Co-founder and CCO Norhan El Sakkout, was previously an investment associate at LimeVest Partners and Beltone Private Equity, having worked at Endeavor Egypt on accelerating high-impact SMEs, then at TA Telecom; she brings the know-how in investment, finance and business continuity.

 

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Press Release

João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, The President of the Republic of Angola To Speak At The Angola and Turkey Business Forum

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João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, The President of the Republic of Angola (Image: Claudia Padayachy)

The President of the Republic of Angola, João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, will give the inaugural speech at the Angola-Turkey Business Forum, to be held at the Ato Congresium Conference Center in Ankara, Turkey, today, 28 July 2021, at 9:00 am local time.

President Lourenço, who will address the Turkish business community, will take this opportunity to highlight Angola’s economic potential and the opportunities that the country offers. He will also discuss his government’s commitment to economic growth and development through the private sector as well as the multiple initiatives that have been adopted to improve the business environment.

This Forum is part of the official program of President Lourenço’s visit to the Republic of Turkey and is the perfect opportunity to inform the local business community and investors of Angola’s new business environment. Numerous ongoing reforms and support policies for private investment and the diversification of the economy have been put in place.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of AIPEX, António Henriques da Silva, will present the numerous investment opportunities in the Republic of Angola.

Turkey’s Minister of Commerce, Mr. Ahmet, and the President of DEIK, are also expected to present at the Forum. 

Around a hundred Angolan and Turkish companies from various sectors are expected to participate in the event.

The Angolan and Turkish business communities will soon enjoy closer ties, with the launch of two direct weekly air connections between Luanda and Ankara through Turkish Airlines.

The  Angolan presidential delegation comprises Manuel Nunes Júnior – Minister of State for Economic Coordination, Edeltrudes da Costa – Minister and Cabinet Director of PR, Tete António – Minister of Foreign Affairs, João Ernesto dos Santos – Minister of National Defense and Homeland Veterans, Sérgio dos Santos – Minister of Economy and Planning, Ricardo Viegas de Abreu – Minister of Transport, João Baptista Jorges – Minister of Energy and Water, Manuel Tavares de Almeida – Minister of Public Works and Spatial Planning, Diamantino de Azevedo – Minister of Mineral Resources , Oil and Gas, António Francisco de Assís – Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Victor Fernandes – Minister of Industry and Commerce and Antonio Henriques da Silva – Chairman of the Board of Directors at AIPEX.

Over the last 18 years, Turkey has significantly increased its presence in Africa, going from 12 embassies and investments of around USD 100 million in 2003 to 42 embassies and around USD 6.5 billion in direct investments in 2021.

From 2003 to 2019, Turkey’s trade with Africa increased about five times, and now some 51 African cities are served by Turkish Airlines, which plans to start flights to Angola soon. (Source: issafrica.org and AIPEX).

To date, Angola has registered around USD 200 million in investments of Turkish origin, especially in mining and steel. President João Lourenço’s visit to Turkey will boost economic relations between the two countries and, in the medium term, an increase in Turkish investment in Angola is expected in priority sectors, namely, industry, mining, energy, tourism and transport, in addition to trade, where the two countries already have strong links.

The trade balance between the two countries is unfavourable for Angola, data from the General Tax Administration (AGT) indicate that from 2015 to 2020, Angola’s imports from Turkey was around USD 1,702,737,951.00, while exports from Angola to Turkey in the same period were only 41,960,419.00 USD.

 

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Press Release

Wärtsilä to modernise power generation at Nigeria’s oldest and largest food company, Flour Mills Nigeria

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Wärtsilä will enable leading Nigerian food company to modernise its power generation facilities to meet everyday production needs

The technology group Wärtsilä will supply fuel-flexible dual-fuel engines to extend, improve, and modernise power generation for a captive power plant at Nigeria’s oldest and largest food and agro allied company, Flour Mills Nigeria. The company’s Lagos-based power plant is needed to ensure sufficient capacity and a reliable electricity supply around the clock to meet its food production requirements, and commitments to its customers. The two received orders were booked by Wärtsilä in March and June. 

The first order comprises a 9-cylinder Wärtsilä 34DF dual-fuel engine generator set and is an extension to the existing generating capacity provided by a similar Wärtsilä engine generator set that has been successfully operating since 2017. The second order comprises a 12-cylinder Wärtsilä 34DF engine generator set and is intended to replace an existing inefficient mono-fuel generating asset in the plant with efficient dual-fuel generating capacity as part of Flour Mills Nigeria’s captive power plant modernisation plans. The Wärtsilä engine generator sets will be delivered during 2021 and are expected to become fully operational in early 2022. 

The multi-fuel capability of the Wärtsilä engines, which can switch seamlessly from natural gas to liquid fuel mode while running at full load, facilitates continuous supply of electricity to critical loads in the event of uncertainties in the quality and quantity of the gas supply. In addition to maximising the availability and reliability, this inherent capability provides a valuable hedge against fuel price increases, and lends itself to accommodating future fuel infrastructure developments. 

Also Read Wärtsilä Optimised Maintenance agreement supports growth ambitions of a privately-owned Nigerian supplier of energy to the national grid

“It is always gratifying to receive repeat orders from a customer, not only because it signifies their satisfaction with our solution, but also because it cements the relationship between our companies. Operational flexibility and efficiency, which are features of the Wärtsilä engines, are becoming key issues in energy production, and are especially relevant for production facilities with a critical need for a reliable electricity supply,” commented Marc Thiriet, Energy Business Director, Africa West. 

The Nigerian government’s 30-30-30 vision document for the power sector aims to achieve a capacity of 30,000 megawatts of electricity by the year 2030, with at least 30 percent being supplied from renewable energy sources. The selection of fast-starting and stopping Wärtsilä engines means that should the customer have access to solar or wind power in the future, these engine generator sets can provide smart back-up generation to balance the fluctuating supply from renewables.

Wärtsilä has a leading position in supplying flexible power generation to West Africa with 4792 MW of capacity installed, of which 667 MW in Nigeria. Wärtsilä has operated in the country since 2010 and has about 90 employees locally.

 

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